Is Castlevania HD's Chapter 7 DLC worth 400 Microsoft Points?

A lot of people call to question whether or not Castlevania: Harmony of Despair's Chapter 7 DLC is priced fairly. Weighing in at 400 Microsoft Points ($5.00), Beauty, Desire, Situation Dire costs one third of what the base game costs. Given the fact that the base game contains six levels and five playable characters, it's not hard to see why people question the value of the Chapter 7 DLC. So, is it worth the price? Well, yes and no, depending on what you've gotten from the game thus far.

For me, the Chapter 7 DLC is easily worth the price of admission. I was at work when I saw news of its release. My initial excitement was stopped dead in its tracks whenever I noticed that the "map pack" that was released contained only a single map. Furthermore, there was no sign of a new playable character, let alone the two or three who've been rumored up to this point. Thing is, I knew deep down that I'd buy the DLC as soon as I got home. Why? Because it's Castlevania, and I love this series more than just about anything. Despite the game's shortcomings, I just keep on coming back for more. The game is definitely best played in groups, especially if you're able to find some nice regulars to play with. Really, I've gotten more play time out of this game than I have most $60 full disc releases that I've purchased, so buying something like the Chapter 7 DLC at what is, admittedly, an inflated cost doesn't strike me as a bad idea. If you love this game, then buy the DLC.

That said, there are plenty of people who won't find the same value in the Chapter 7 DLC. If you couldn't get into the base game, then Chapter 7 probably won't change your outlook on the overall package. As such, sure, there's a good chance that this DLC isn't for everyone.

Before you pass on the DLC, however, I do feel that there are certain people whose opinions could be swayed by this level. Again, if you hate the game, then this DLC probably won't miraculously make you fall head over heels in love with it. Still, I like to look at this level of a means of making certain characters who - in my opinion - were far less appealing to play as in chapters one through six so much more approachable. Charlotte certainly seems to be getting a lot more attention as of late, thanks to the DLC. Furthermore, Shanoa really shines in this level. My Shanoa was a total piece of shit prior to playing Chapter 7, but I was able to acquire each of her more sought-after weapons with a relatively small number of playthroughs. Astarte, Chapter 7's boss, is pretty much Shanoa's one stop shop for drops.

Anyway, I hope to see some of you online. Feel free to share some of your Chapter 7 experiences in the comments below. Also, feel free to share your GamerTags, as well as a bit about yourself and how you like to play the game. In fact, try to include the same info that I include below, especially since whether or not you own the Chapter 7 DLC will affect others in your lobby, while not having the dashboard preview will disable Party Chat (but not in-game chat in the case of this game, thankfully) with people who won't have the dashboard preview.

GamerTag: kevinski com // Headset: Yes

Chapters: Any // Characters: See More Info // Difficulties: Any (Hard Preferred)

Chapter 7 DLC: Yes // Dashboard Preview: Yes

More Info: Prior to Chapter 7 being released, I primarily played as Soma. I'll still play as him primarily for Chapters 1-6, but I won't be playing as him in Chapter 7 until I can dodge Temptation properly (so as to not inconvenience people who are playing on my team). Also, I'm still working on getting Soma's souls, as he's not as complete as I'd like him to be. I've been playing as Alucard a lot more lately, Chapter 7 included (since mist makes dodging Temptation very easy). I also play Charlotte a bit, and I have her spells maxed out (including Delta Spark).

Preferred Players: I prefer playing with people who have headsets, primarily for coordinating strategies. I also don't mind talking about things other than the game(s) that I'm playing, so I also have a preference toward chatty people. If you're just starting out, then I'm also willing to play on Normal, and I'll adjust my play style to suit whatever you're trying to do. For example, if you're trying to absorb spells as Charlotte, then let me know what you need, and I'll be sure to leave certain enemies alive for you. Also, if you need certain achievements, then I'll do what I can to help you get them.

Non-Preferred Players: I don't like playing with people who rush the boss as quickly as possible without making sure that the rest of the team's okay with it. I'm still at a point where I want those extra chests that're lying around, as I'm trying to collect everything.

Also, while I don't mind if certain team members want to stay complete out of harm's way, I hate seeing people turn themselves invisible in an attempt to hide at the beginning of the level. If you want drops without putting much effort in, then don't try to hide it. I'm okay with helping you to get drops, as long as you're honest about it. You should still be willing to help out in other ways, though, such as staying outside of boss chambers so you can let other players out, for example.


DLC = Julius + Yoko + Pyramid (???)

Well, according to the attached scan, Julius and Yoko (each priced at 200 MS points or $2.50) are going to be the next available characters for Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. Not sure just what happened to plans to release Maria as a playable character, but Yoko will - at the very least - introduce a bit more variety in terms of play style (although she really wasn't a terribly interesting character to play as in DoS, in my opinion). Anyway, the pyramid level is supposedly in, as well, although I don't believe that's been priced as of yet. Thoughts? Also, bear in mind that most of the dates mentioned in the scan have already passed, so feel free to be skeptical.


What should Castlevania: Harmony of Despair's patch(es) include?

As much as I love Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, there's so much that I'd change about it in a patch. I wouldn't change the base game play a whole lot, as I like its new approach to the Castlevania-style game play that I already know and love. It's excellent for playing for short periods of time, yet you can also find yourself getting lost in it for hours on end. While I'd certainly adjust the balance on the characters, I can't go too far into detail with that right now, as I don't feel that I've experienced enough of the game's later offerings to know just how broken some (as opposed to all) characters eventually become. 
First off, I'd add a sixth playable character at no cost. Really, I'm fine with paid DLC for a game like this, but releasing a six-player game with only five playable characters (even though most people play as Alucard or Soma, anyway) was a really dumb move. Based on my own personal preference, I'd make Maria Renard the sixth character, since she'd potentially play far differently from the existing characters as any other candidate. I'd base her play style in HD on how she played in the Saturn version of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, albeit with some tweaks to make her a tad more faithful to her Rondo counterpart. 
Next, I'd tweak the team creation options, allowing the person starting the team to choose whether or not to allow duplicate characters on a team, as well as to enable a shuffle mode that would randomly assign each of the six players to a different character at the start of each level. Furthermore, upon creating a team, there'd be a means of adding a team title, as well as a description, each of which could be used to specify whether the team's primary objective is leveling, looting, etc. 
I'd also give players far more freedom in configuring their controls, namely by allowing them to use bumpers or triggers as modifier keys for spell-casting. Also, players could customize their controls to mimic past Castlevania games. For example, rather than pressing RT to open a chest, you could press Up on the d-pad. 
I'm sure that I'll come up with other ideas as I play the game more, but - in the meantime - I'm curious: What would you change if you could patch HD?


What are your top ten favorite Castlevania music tracks?

It's no big secret that the Castlevania series is home to some of the best music in video game history. I'm not necessarily referring to the quality of the compositions, however, although Castlevania certainly has its share of beautifully-composed masterpieces. Rather, I'm referring to just how effective some of this series' music is at getting you totally pumped up to beat some vampire ass. I'll start with my top ten list. Sure, it's missing some classics, but bear in mind that these are my own personal faves. These are the songs that REALLY get me into their respective games, and it's not uncommon for me to find myself humming them while I'm out and about.

01) New Messiah (Adventure ReBirth)
02) Bloody Tears (Judgment)
03) Crucifix Held Close (Portrait of Ruin)
04) Darkness of Fear (Judgment)
05) Into the Dark Night (Dawn of Sorrow)
06) Victorian Fear (Portrait of Ruin)
07) Beginning (Nocturne in the Moonlight)
08) An Empty Tome (Order of Ecclesia)
09) Iron Blue Intention (Portrait of Ruin)
10) Cemetery (Dracula X)

Now, I'm sure that some of you are wondering where a lot of Symphony of the Night's music is. (My favorite version of Beginning, for the record, is from the Saturn version, which I've labelled as Nocturne in the Moonlight.) While I won't dispute how amazing Symphony of the Night's music is, I can't say that many of the tracks rank among my absolute favorites. As for older versions of the tracks, sure, they're listenable, but it's hard to deny that some of these tracks just get better and better with each new iteration. And yes, I do prefer the SNES rendition of Cemetery to that of the PC Engine. :P

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Worms Reloaded - Who's Buying It?

While I first played the original Worms back when I was in high school, I never really got into it until I played Worms Armageddon and Worms World Party in college. More recently, I purchased Worms 2: Armageddon for XBLA. It brought back a lot of memories, although I did learn one important lesson from playing it: I can't ninja rope for shit with a d-pad. Enter Worms Reloaded, the upcoming PC installment of the series that'll initially be released on Steam on August 26th (although I assume that people who pre-purchase it will actually get to play on the 25th).

I've already pre-purchased it. I mean, what's not to love? It'll be awesome enough playing a new Worms game with keyboard and mouse support. Better still, I won't need to leave the damn disc in the disc tray this time around. (Sure, that's a minor gripe, but it was ridiculous when you consider the fact that the games didn't install the vast majority of the game's audio to your hard drive.) I'm really looking forward to getting back into the swing of things (literally) by honing my ninja rope skills, as well as better adapting myself to the new weapons without making mistakes due to the awkward controls of the XBLA installment.


Is Mortal Kombat in need of a character design reboot?

Don't get me wrong: I'm really looking forward to this game. Thing is, I can't help but feel that this series really, REALLY needs a character design reboot. For me, that supposed Mortal Kombat reboot trailer was like a breath of fresh air to me. It's not as though I felt that everything was perfect in it or anything, but everything was certainly more believable. Mortal Kombat characters just tend to have these very cartoony qualities to them, whether it's their proportions or their awkward animations.

Similar to Sonic the Hedgehog, some characters in this series just don't work well in three dimensions. Take Raiden, for example. Sure, his appearance is true to how he looked in the series' 2D installments, but his base design still isn't well-suited to being adapted into three dimensions. When I think of a kick-ass 3D Raiden, I think of something more along the lines of the three storms from Big Trouble in Little China, albeit with downsized headgear. As is, Raiden just doesn't look very intimidating, nor does he look much more than just plain awkward.

Next up, how about Mileena? Or, really, any other female character in a Mortal Kombat game, I suppose. Is there not a woman in existence without massive breasts? One thing that I love about the original Mortal Kombat games' digitized characters are their believable appearances. Sure, they were dressed a bit ridiculously, but their proportions were believable because they were *gasp* real people. Come to think of it, those older digitized graphics probably marked the most reasonable example of video game characters whom you could consider to be physically attractive without seeming like some kind of weirdo. Looking at the 3D variations of each respective character in the Mortal Kombat series, I can see why some people have such a problem with people considering video game characters to be attractive.

Now, with that said, how do you feel about Mortal Kombat's character designs? What, if anything, would you do differently?


Castlevania: Harmony of Despair - Who's Buying It?

With Castlevania: Harmony of Despair being released on August 4th and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (hopefully) being released later this year, I couldn't be happier to be an Xbox 360 owner. I bought an Xbox 360 with future Castlevania releases in mind (although, at the time, I only knew about LoS), just as I bought my DS for its selection of Castlevania games. Needless to say, I love Castlevania, so I'll be purchasing Castlevania: Harmony of Despair on day one.

While I realize that some people may try to wait for a PSN release, I'm curious as to who's planning on buying the XBLA version upon its release. I'll be buying it on day one, although I probably won't be getting it until much later in the day (unless I call off of work - haha). In case anyone here wants to add me and play some Castlevania: Harmony of Despair with me once it's released, my GamerTag is kevinski com.


Alan Wake = Done

I must say that Alan Wake was coming close to being tolerable for me. The Anderson Farm scene was great, and I must say that the game - for a while - became pretty decent once I started using my weapons more haphazardly and stopped reading the manuscript pages. Thing is, the ending was completely unfulfilling for me. I honestly don't know how I'm expected to care about what I just saw. Furthermore, the game play leading up to the ending was just a complete mess, with the camera issues that I have with the game being emphasized further as I became lost in the dark at times. I really just don't feel like playing it anymore. I was half considering just throwing away the DLC redemption code that came with the game, just so I'm not tempted to give the game another go. I've been making it a point to review games once I finish them. I doubt that I'll bother. This game's on thin ice with me, almost to the extent that Tomb Raider: Legend is.


Wow...despite Alan Wake's flaws, I must admit... (Farm Spoilers)

Wow...despite Alan Wake's flaws, I must admit that the scene in which Alan and Barry need to fend off the Taken at the Anderson Farm is probably one of the most hilariously awesome scenes in video game history. Just as Alan makes his way to the farm, Barry finds himself overwhelmed by the Taken on a stage at the far end of a field. Just when you think the shit's about to hit the fan, however, an electrical mishap triggers a massive serpent stage prop whose pyrotechnics saves Barry's ass. Upon realizing the newfound light sources at his disposal, Barry then begins to set off the flash pots surrounding the stage as rock music blares in the background. This scene is awesome in and of itself, but it also does an excellent job of showcasing Alan Wake's amazing lighting effects.

You can check out this scene below, as I was able to find it on YouTube. :)


As if it wasn't enough that my weapons continually disappear...

As if it wasn't enough that my weapons continually disappear while playing Alan Wake, the game continues to blow my mind with some of the most ridiculous game play design choices that I've experienced as of late. I must say, however, that I would - to an extent - be enjoying the game more had Microsoft not cancelled the PC version. Sure, most of what I consider to be flaws in Alan Wake would still be present, but I wouldn't be dealing with analog movement in the PC version, as I'd be using WASD on my keyboard for movement, combined with mouselook. While some people would argue that analog movement grants you far more precision, I'd counter said argument by saying that analog movement grants you far too much precision in certain games. I felt this way about Tomb Raider: Underworld, and I feel this way about Alan Wake. I also feel that eight-way movement while using a keyboard for movement still affords you the same level of precision, since you're using mouselook to compensate for the more limited movement options allowed by WASD. The difference is that you have (and always will have) more control over your viewpoint with mouselook.

If I'm trying to run up a board that's leaning against a fence (Really, just climb over the damn fence, Alan.), then I tend to have far less difficulty doing this in a game that doesn't have analog movement. I'm sure that some people would consider me crazy for this, but I'd much rather play a first- or third-person shooter on Dreamcast, using the face buttons for movement and the analog stick (of which Dreamcast's controller has only one) for looking around. Why? Because movement is still more predictable with only eight directions being available, and I can adjust the angle of my movement by looking slightly to the left or right as I move. Easy as pie. In Alan Wake, thanks to analog movement, I get to make five or six attempts at walking up the aforementioned board that's leaning against the aforementioned fence as some asshole's taking swipes at me. Not. Fucking. Cool. I realize that this isn't a game-specific flaw, but damn...give us the option to confine movement to eight directions.

In case it wasn't already obvious, yes, I do have problems with analog controls. They're great for racing games, but I hate them for just about everything else. As such, my problem with analog controls is further exacerbated by the fact that Alan Wake absolutely HAS to make the experience more cinematic by shifting your viewpoint while dodging or whenever certain enemies appear. Combine that with the third-person viewpoint in tight areas, and you've got a fucking nightmare on your hands.

Building on the fact that some problems are even more noticeable when you're dealing with enemies, why are the context-sensitive elements to the game play so damn unreliable? Sure, it was annoying having to position and angle yourself *just right* in Deadly Premonition in order to pick up some items, but how about doing exactly the same thing while several enemies are trying to gang rape you in Alan Wake? Whether you're trying to pick up a manuscript page or activate a switch, it's just annoying. Context-sensitive events like this should give you more leeway, especially in combat situations.

I'm sure that I'll have a lot more to say about Alan Wake as I play it more, but I must say that things aren't shaping up too nicely in my eyes. I can respect some gamers' views of the game and how it forces you to play it the way that the developers intended, but the game just does such a horrible job at attempting to justify this approach. I'd be more accepting of the game's flaws if they weren't so game-breaking at times. I'm not sure if I'll finish the game at this rate or not. While I'm sure that some people get a sense of accomplishment at overcoming the limitations imposed upon them in Alan Wake, I find those limitations to be infuriating and unforgivable.

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